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African American History

Getting Started: Researching the Underground Railroad

Morris Library contains a wealth of historical information on slavery, abolition and the Underground Railroad. This select bibliography can be used to identify encyclopedia entries, books, newspaper and periodical articles, and full-text information online. A few good starting points are:

Finding African American Material in DELCAT Discovery

  • DELCAT Discovery uses the term African Americans when referring to black citizens of the United States and blacks when discussing black people internationally.
  • Always start by searching for your specific historical topic, and then broaden your search to find additional material. For example, if you were researching Nat Turner's rebellion, you could search for Nat Turner or Southampton Insurrection. For additional materials, you could search for slave insurrections.
  • To obtain book-length autobiographies and biographies search DELCAT Discovery using the individual's name as a subject.
  •  To limit your search to primary source materials, add words to your search that pertain to the format of the material. Format terms include: correspondence, diaries, letters, manuscripts, narratives, papers, sources and speeches. A sample keyword search: thomas garrett and diaries

Library of Congress Subject Headings

You may search DELCAT Discovery using specific subject headings that refer to your topic. For assistance in selecting headings to locate books,  Ask a Librarian. Below are sample subject headings:

African American women--Biography
African Americans--Biography
African Americans--History--19th century
Antislavery movements
Fugitive slaves
Slave insurrections
Slave narratives
Slave trade
Slavery in the United States
Slavery in the United States--Condition of slaves
Slaves--Emancipation--United States
Slaves--United States--Biography
Underground railroad
Women slaves

Finding E-Books


Newspapers are excellent sources of historical information. Newspapers written during the slavery era are valuable primary sources,  while current newspapers such as the Wilmington News Journal will provide helpful secondary accounts of the Underground Railroad.